I’m not one of those people who complain about the good old days. I like technology. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for air conditioning the population of McAllen would be 47 people, at least from May to September. The rest of us would be following the Winter Texans back to Michigan or Minnesota, or wherever they come from.
And the automobile? Sure, I know about the disappearing ozone layer and global warming and all that. I’ve also been to parades and seen what happens to the street after one of those sheriff’s posses, (40 horses ridden by 40 old guys, some of them weighing more than their horses), comes up the street. I’ve seen what can happen to the drum major who follows the sheriff’s posse when the clowns with the shovels and rolling trashcans don’t do their job. I’ve seen the look of sad disgust on said clowns’ faces as they shovel. And, I can well imagine what happens when they get home after the parade.
“No, you can’t come in the house until we hose you off in the front yard. And we’re going to have to burn your clown outfit again.”
I can also imagine, though I don’t want to, what Highway 83 would be like during rush hour if we were all riding horses to work instead of cars. (At least from October to April, when we weren’t in Michigan.)
No, I admit, I like technology. In fact, I used to say, the more the better. I’m not so sure about that anymore. I’m a little uneasy at the strange advance of technology into public restrooms. Sure, I’m all about flushing toilets. I wouldn’t go back to outhouses any more than I would horses.
I admit, though, that I became a little uneasy when those automatic faucets appeared. You know the ones: you just put your hand underneath the faucet and water comes pouring out. After that, they brought in automatic towel dispensers. And hey, I’m all for not touching a single surface I don’t have to in a public restroom.
What really threw me for a loop was when they started the automatic flushing toilets. Same thing as the faucets, only instead of waving your hands, all you have to do is stand up. You stand up, they flush. What has me flustered is that like all electronic technology, these things are a little iffy around water. Get your cell phone wet, it starts to blank out. You meant to say, “I don’t want your mother to stay for less than a month.” She hears “I don’t want your mother to stay--.” Might as well not go home after that.
Electronics and water. They don’t go together. Sit down on the toilet. It flushes. Get up. It doesn’t flush. Wave your hand in front of the little read eye that’s supposed to tell it when you got up? Nothing. Start to walk away. It flushes.
I could handle this bit of practical joking on the part of these toilets, that is, until I was in California recently, a place that always has to be on the cutting edge, and the next generation of public restroom technology had been installed. I walked into a restroom and waved my hands in front of the faucet. The water came on. And a voice calmly advised me “Don’t forget to use soap.” To my credit, I only jumped four feet, bumping against the towel dispenser, which merrily rolled out towels for me to dry my shaking hands. Then the same voice thanked me for “Using the facilities, and don’t forget to dispose of the towels in the receptacle provided.”
By then I was afraid to go near the urinals or the toilets. Automatically flushing toilets, even automatically flushing toilets that didn’t flush when they were supposed to, I could take. Talking toilets. I wasn’t ready for that advance in technology. I could imagine all sorts of things I didn’t want to hear from a toilet.
If I were going to design a talking toilet, I think I’d want to use Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice -- not the friendly, “We’re California!” from the television commercials as governor of the state -- the Terminator Arnold, when his Austrian accent took on that metallic tinge that told you he wasn’t quite human even before his fake skin burned off to reveal that he was a robot. Yeah, Terminator Toilet, that’s technology that makes sense. When you flushed it could tell you “I’ll be back.” When it told you to put down the lid, you’d do it. Then, when you left it could say “Hasta la vista, baby.”